Should I allow my dogs to play rough

Posted by sabrinalenore
Mar 8, 2008
I have a 1.5 yr old neutered boxer who I believe might be somewhat confused about his alpha status. Although he responds well to training, he does have some issues with the barking when people come to the house and I have to work with him to keep him in a good heel 100% of the time. He is very food motivated and he has completed 2 training course, attends weekly Rally training and has received his Good Canine Certificate and a Rally Novice title. We played rough with him growing up, encouraged tug of war and only in the last 6 wks have worked to correct his barking/growling at guests to the house and on occasion at stores/walks. We will start working hard at the 5 min rule when we come home and eating first from his bowl which I expect to help his confusion but here is the real confusion/question.

We got a puppy in January, a Boerboel. This dog was selected based on personality tests as not overly dominant but confident and trainer focused. At 5 months, he now weighs the same as our boxer. Our boxer has always played rough with other dogs and so when they started playing rough, we let it con't. We did try to minimize when they seemed to get really boisterous which was easy inside but more challenging in the backyard. The puppy teeth did some damage to the boxer but mostly just scrathes and such. The boxer had been trained by us to have a soft mouth and the puppy didn't seem to get much in the way of bites or bruises.

We thought we should determine which dog is higher in the chain and so feed the boxer first. Now I begin to wonder if the rough playing is aggravated by supporting a different heirarchy than they are developing. The boxer seems to 'tease' the puppy and encourage play/fights by holding a toy in his mouth and boucing up to and back from the puppy trying to get the puppy to go for the toy and then they run as the boxer plays keep away. Although we played tug with him as a pup, we did not accept keep away. To keep playing with us, he had to drop or we would ignore him.

How can I determine who is naturally above the other?

We started feeding them a bit separate as the puppy was pushing the boxer out of the feed bowl. We corrected the puppy on the first occasion when he went for the boxer's food when the boxer was still eating; he now won't go to the bowl until the boxer has walked off. When I did make a special treat the other day and let the boxer have some first and then put the bowl down for the puppy, the puppy was very clear that it was his when the boxer tried to have some more.

Should I allow them to ever play with their teeth/mouth open?

Should I stop them both if they start tugging with the same toy?

I mostly try to train them separate to ensure I get exactly what I am asking for. Although I have taken them on walks together it is a lot more work than one on one.

So besides ensuring the boxer understands his place with humans, I am lost on what I should allow, not allow and do I support the heirarchy.


PS They are not always fighting, they sleep together some.
Posted by Todd
Mar 9, 2008
HI there and thanks for the questions.

I will try to go over the basic alpha training stuff just so you know you are on the right path with things.

The first advice i would give you is to ensure you and your family members have read and understand the techniques in the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". These are great techniques for maintaining or establishing your position at the head of the household. No matter what the problem is all dogs need to know where the stand in the house for both yours and their peace and comfort.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-

1) If you come across your dogs while they are sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making him move so that you can pass by.

2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.

3) At mealtimes make sure that your dogs eat after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dogs tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet your dogs straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

6) Whenever your dogs want attention or anything wait till they are sitting and being well behaved.

7) When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

Generally I do not recommend people give their dogs bones as this encourages the aggression, because in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones. The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.

I think it is great the boxer has been so well trained and i encourage you to keep on with him as well as start training with the pup. Work with each dog seperately for 10 minutes twice a day each. Try the basic commands of sit, stay and come.

Now to your specific questions.
I encourage playing between new dogs in the household as it allows them to form a bond and will also be teaching the pup some good manners and behaviours. But then again it can do the opposite
So i think the boxer should at this stage be above the pup in your hierarchy but this may change with time.
So the pup should always get attention second, be feed last and always have to wait. This may sound mean but it will avoid a lot of issues.

It is fine for the pup to be confident with his food when he gets it. But any growling or other aggressive action should be reprimanded and removed from the food. But in the same respect when he is being good reward him with praise and attention.

I have no problem with open mouth play and tugging between animals. This will help them bond and the boxer to assert his position as the alpha.
But again no overly rough play or hurting each other. If this happens make sure to reprimand the instigator and split the two up.

As for the walking it will be easier at the start to try and have someone walk the other dog when you go out. This will stop either dog from acting up and getting away with it and make things a bit more relaxing for you
After they are both manageable then you can walk them by yourself.

Just remember Boxer number one and pup second, they may sort out there order again later in life now but for now that is the order.

Make sure the pup knows he is bottom and doesn't get away with things. Good luck and please let me know how things go

Posted by sabrinalenore
Mar 24, 2008
I have con't to apply alpha training over both dogs. I do gesture eating, insist on proper doorway etiquette and delay greeting my dogs until they are calm.

I have supported the older Boxer above the puppy with food, doorways, greetings, play and training.

Here are some concerns.....although the boxer has gotten better on barking/running to the front door with visitors, he growled/lunged at two differnt people this weekend. This is a first. He did it first with a dog lover who was down at his level and using baby talk and then with my husband when a child wanted to say hello (the child approached hand out with eyes averted). This is obviously very serious and we will need to get a muzzle. The problem is he is erratic, we can't predict when/who/where he will be agressive now.

On my side, I believe my demonstration of favortism for the Boxer isn't great. He isn't into cuddling like the puppy and because the Boxer has SO much energy and when I play in the backyard and even if we run him with the scooter, he is back up an hour later wanting to run laps in the backyard. They puppy, being a larger/lazier breed can't keep up either. So there are many times the Boxer is outside and the puppy is inside sleeping.

Other factors we have observed watching the two together......the Boxer allows the puppy to mount him and will not stop it, the Boxer stands over the puppy when he is laying down or standing, the puppy pushes to the best spot on the floor by us and the Boxer adjusts, if the puppy is laying on the living room floor relaxing or cleaning the boxer circles him trying to catch his eye to roughhouse, at night if the kennel is left open the Boxer will try to sleep somewhere other than the puppy but the puppy keeps following, other than primary meals where I have the routine of Boxer first - putting down both bowls with a treat and the Boxer hangs back from the open bowl and the puppy would each both if I didn't interfere. Is this just cause he is a puppy or what? The puppy is not 6 months yet and the boxer is 18 months. The puppy is 64lbs and the Boxer 59lbs, there is only about2 inches difference in height right now and so the Boxer is not quite on the ground if he tries to stand over the puppy when the puppy is standing.

They cry to play with each other and I can't say they have ever gone too far (no blood or pain cries) but on occasion it does seem to escalate with harsher growls mostly when the puppy has had enough and the Boxer wants to play more.

So do I just keep going with the Boxer over the puppy and myself and my husband as top? What are the possible signs that this should shift?